We’ve all heard jokes about older people and their inability to use a cell phone, navigate the internet, program their VCR (remember those) or even send emails. But is it something about the older brain that makes learning these seemingly easy (to young people, at least) tasks so daunting?
Some researchers say no. Older people are just as capable of learning how to do new things as young people. The problem is, many older people have made a conscious decision to NOT learn new things. This is how observers explain this phenomenon:
Humans are born with an innate curiosity. All early life is a learning adventure. Physically and mentally, babies explore and learn everything that comes their way. Its natural. Then we go to school. Learning in a school environment often feels like a chore. It can often be boring, and seem like hard work. But we push on because of peer pressure, parental pressure, and a desire to succeed.
School can continue for years and years, and except for the lucky few that continue to find learning stimulating and fun, learning new things just feels like a burden. Then we enter the work force. We have to learn new skills for our jobs. We need to meet new people, and learn the social nuances of interacting with people different than we are. We become parents, which is often one of the most difficult undertakings, bringing all of our skills to the fore. There is no question parents learn more from the transition to parenthood than the children they are supposed to be educating.
Finally, we reach maturity. We are secure in our jobs and our children are raised, and we have a circle of old friends. We are no longer forced to learn anything new. We feel we deserve a break from the rigors of conquering something new, and refuse to even try.
Older people should try and realize this psychological truth, and make the conscious decision to continue to learn: how to send an email; how to use their cellular phones; how to play an instrument; how to paint; how to sew; how to speak a new language; and so much more. Older people can re-discover the joy in learning, and feel young again, by just making the decision that they can.